Engineer and Fenwick resident champions farmers and rural businesses
James Federico feels that his record of community service, his familiarity with municipal finance and planning policy, and an ability to bring together people of diverse opinions to implement practical solutions, are the top reasons to elect him in the upcoming by-election for the vacant Pelham Town Council seat in Ward 1.
He sees the role of council as not simply building for what is currently needed, but for future generations.
“Societies flourish when old men plant trees, knowing that they’ll never sit under the shade,” said Federico, quoting the ancient Greek proverb.
“It’s about our kids and our grandkids. So that’s my horizon…to provide ways for my family to want to stay in Pelham.”
Born on a farm in Haldimand County, Federico moved to Hamilton with his parents when he was a teenager, and then it was off to study engineering at the University of Waterloo. He relocated to Fenwick with his wife 15 years ago, and has been there ever since. Federico worked in technical services and facility management at Brock University and Niagara College before creating his own company, in Fenwick, that handles mechanical, civil, and structural engineering projects.
Federico has been a volunteer, coaching minor hockey and soccer, serving on numerous local committees, and helping out at his kids’ schools (St. Ann and Wellington Heights).
He chaired Pelham’s Committee of Adjustment, adjudicating minor variance applications, consents and severances. This role bolstered his familiarity with provincial, regional, and local planning policies, as well as understanding property and planning laws, he said.
As vice chair of the Architectural Design Advisory Committee for the Meridian Community Centre, he worked with community groups, councillors, and architects to help steer the delivery of the facility.
Pelhamites may recall the yellow ramps in front of stores in downtown Fonthill, which allow access for strollers and wheelchairs. That’s a project Federico spearheaded, engaging E. L. Crossley students and local businesses to donate materials for construction.
And while he is broadly pro-Pelham and ready to deal with critical municipal issues such as the financial deficit, Federico has a special attraction for the local issues facing residents of Ward 1.
“I live and work in downtown Fenwick. I see the parking problems. Do we need a $60,000 dollar study to understand what the parking problems are? We can take action tomorrow, cheaply, to improve the situation.”
Do we need a $60,000 dollar study to understand what the parking problems are?
Case in point: there are defined parking stalls in downtown Fenwick, but because of the colors of the brick, they are not easily visible. A couple hundred dollars of white paint would address the problem, said Federico.
“We’re in transition in North Pelham. Minor Brothers, the Avondale, both are closed. We need a plan to get some retail back there, some reinvestment. The rejuvenation of Fenwick has been stalled, and we need to set the right tone. Otherwise, we’ll end up with crumbling infrastructure.”
Federico believes it is the role of both the community and the municipality to encourage that investment, and increase density to attract businesses to Fenwick.
“I remember walking to the hardware store, walking to the bank. The businesses today in Fenwick just don’t have the foot traffic. We need a little bit denser housing, and more anchor tenants.”
He noted the old fire hall in Fenwick, which he and a construction company partner made an offer on to convert into a commercial space, potentially bringing investment, jobs, and more people downtown, was sold to a higher bidder (a developer from out of town), and it has sat vacant for years.
“It’s a shame that those kinds of things lead to other events, like the bank leaving town. It’s 2020, and everybody’s running on metrics…and when you don’t have the population to support something, you’re in trouble.”
The Royal Bank building illustrates the kind of reinvestment Federico encourages.
“It was bought by a guy from Fenwick who envisioned a boutique hotel…in his early 30s whose kids go to St. Ann…a guy interested in the next 50 years here in town. You couldn’t have somebody more engaged, more sensitive to the community.”
Federico knows that there are certainly people in town who are resistant to change, but to attract young families to Pelham, the municipality needs to continually update its facilities and services.
Of particular concern to Federico are the aging farmers in Ward 1, some of whom want to downsize, but still stay in town.
“What are we doing to provide lower-cost housing units, that they can live in comfortably?”
Pelham’s Airbnb bylaws make sense for parts of the Town, but need to be modified for rural areas, said Federico.
“We’re talking affordability issues for farmers and senior citizens. I look at the successful farms in Ward 1, and all of them have diversified income streams putting value-added on their products.”
Federico feels that a farmer with unused acreage should be able to entertain programs like Harvest Host, in which self-contained RVs and trailers can overnight on their property.
Commenting on the Maple Acre branch of the Pelham Library in Fenwick, Federico said, “Libraries are one of the last great public spaces…a meeting place for people, from migrant workers to young teenagers.”
He believes there is potential for greater utilization of the library, perhaps via partnerships with volunteer groups.
The cannabis issue in Pelham needs to be addressed in a reasonable fashion, said Federico. The industry provides tax dollars and jobs, but unchecked odour and light pollution is off-putting for residents in parts of the town.
“We need to find the balance. If we put a noxious fume bylaw in place for agricultural products, what happens when a farmer spreads manure on his field? What happens to the guy who gets complaints when he cleans his chicken barn? We need to find a way to make the cannabis producers partners and good corporate citizens.”
Dealing with the pandemic has not been an easy process, said Federico. “Looking back at March, did we get it perfect right out of the gate? No, absolutely not. The science is evolving.”
He said his three children, all under age 12, are missing their sports and friends, and added, “I’m as antsy as the next guy to get back to some sense of normalcy. We just have to do the best that we can under the circumstances…take responsibility for protecting ourselves and the others around us.”
Federico views the current Pelham council as being made up of “accomplished people who have good skill sets.” The challenge, he said, is in finding the areas to best utilize these talents, and making the effort to work harmoniously.
“I’m here to advocate. I’m not here to agitate. If Ward 1 voters elect me, they’ll get representation from someone who’s there [in Fenwick] every day.”
Federico’s campaign website can be found at: www.jfward1.ca